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Two Farms, Inc. v. Davis, Bowen & Friedel, Inc.

Superior Court of Delaware, Kent

December 19, 2018

TWO FARMS, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
DAVIS, BOWEN & FRIEDEL, INC., SILICATO-WOOD PARTNERSHIP, LLC and DENNIS SILICATO, Defendants. SILICATO-WOOD PARTNERSHIP, LLC, Third-Party Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF DELAWARE DEPARTMENT of TRANSPORTATION, Third-Party Defendant.

          Submitted: November 14, 2018

         Upon Third-Party Defendant's Motion to Dismiss GRANTED

          OPINION AND ORDER

          Noel Eason Primos, Judge

         Before the Court is the motion of Third-Party Defendant State of Delaware Department of Transportation (hereinafter "DelDOT") to dismiss the Third-Party Complaint of Defendant/Third-Party Plaintiff Silicato-Wood Partnership, LLC (hereinafter "SWP"). In its Third-Party Complaint, which was filed on May 24, 2018, SWP asserts claims against DelDOT for (1) Declaratory Judgment, (2) Tortious Interference with Contract and Business Relations, and (3) Inverse Condemnation. For the reasons stated herein, DelDOT's Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         The facts recited here are those as alleged by SWP in its Third-Party Complaint.[1]

         In 2008, SWP sought to develop a property located in Milford, Delaware (hereinafter the "Property") adjacent to Delaware Route 1. In connection with this development, SWP and its engineering firm, Defendant Davis, Bowen and Friedel, Inc., submitted a building site plan (hereinafter the "SWP Subdivision Plan") to the City of Milford.

         Pursuant to the City of Milford's process, DelDOT submitted comments regarding the SWP Subdivision Plan to the City of Milford Development Advisory Committee. One of the items contained in the DelDOT Comments requested that a note be placed on the SWP Subdivision Plan (hereinafter the "DelDOT Requested Note") indicating that the right turn-in entrance (hereinafter the "Right-In Entrance") from the access road labeled on the SWP subdivision plan as "the Route 1 Entrance" could be modified in the future if traffic conditions warranted. The DelDOT Requested Note was never placed on the SWP Subdivision Plan.

         In 2011, SWP conveyed to Plaintiff Two Farms, Inc. (hereinafter "TFI"), a portion of the Property known as Lot No. 5 (hereinafter the "TFI Parcel"). The TFI Parcel was bounded by the Route 1 Entrance and by another roadway known as "Silicato Parkway," and the Right-In Entrance led from the Route 1 Entrance into the TFI Parcel. SWP has alleged in its Third-Party Complaint that "[f]ee simple title to Silicato Parkway, the Route 1 Entrance and the Right-In Entrance is vested in SWP."

         DelDOT has filed a condemnation action against TFI (hereinafter the "Condemnation Action") seeking to take certain property interests from TFI for purposes of the NE Front Street/Route 1 Overpass Project, including the Right-In Entrance.[2] On April 17, 2017, this Court entered a Stipulation and Order of Possession of Property (hereinafter the "April 17 Order") granting DelDOT the right to enter and possess the portion of the TFI parcel sought in the Condemnation Action, including the Right-In Entrance.[3]

         II. Discussion

         On a motion to dismiss, the moving party bears the burden of demonstrating that "there are no material issues of fact and that he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."[4] Upon this Court's review of a motion to dismiss, "(i) all well-pleaded factual allegations are accepted as true; (ii) even vague allegations are well-pleaded if they give the opposing party notice of the claim; (iii) the Court must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party; and (iv) dismissal is inappropriate unless the plaintiff would not be entitled to recover under any reasonably conceivable set of circumstances susceptible of proof."[5]

         A. SWP's Declaratory Judgment Claim

         In Count I of its Third-Party Complaint, S WP seeks a declaratory judgment against DelDOT arguing that DelDOT's decision to close the Right-In Entrance is "arbitrary and capricious." As noted previously, SWP alleges in its Third-Party Complaint that it possesses fee simple title to the Right-In Entrance. SWP contradicts its own pleading in its Answering Brief, however, asserting that SWP owns only part of the Right-In Entrance, and that TFI owns the rest.

         Regardless of who actually possesses fee simple title to the Right-In Entrance, the Court finds that SWP is not entitled to a declaratory judgment in this case, and this claim must be dismissed. To the extent that TFI owns part of the Right-In Entrance, principles of both standing and comity bar SWP's declaratory judgment claim. To the extent that SWP, rather than TFI, owns part of the Right-In Entrance, SWP's declaratory judgment claim is not properly brought as a third-party claim in this action.

         In order to establish standing, SWP must show: "(1) an injury in fact; (2) a causal connection between the injury and the conduct of which [SWP] complains; and (3) that a favorable decision is likely to redress the injury."[6] SWP cannot show an injury-in-fact with regard to DelDOT's taking of TFI's portion of the Right-In Entrance, as SWP had conveyed the TFI parcel, ...


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